When We’re Big Brother

There are many things I’m not a fan of including the surveillance state. Apparently Ramsey County thinks differently than me since they now have a new service available via their web page. Yes by going to Ramsey County’s Web Cop page you can gain access to cameras dispersed throughout Ramsey Country:

We need your help. Join our “Neighborhood eWatch” and help prevent crime by reporting any suspicious activity you observe on one of our cameras. Log into the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office “Web Cop – View Commander Software” to view 10 of our wireless surveillance cameras. To enter the site click here. When prompted, enter the following:

Username: public
Password: public

If you witness suspicious activity, call the East Metro Real-Time Information Center (EMRIC) at 651-266-9450, where analysts are able to pan, tilt and zoom the cameras to get a better look at the incident.

If you see a crime in progress, call 911 immediately and ask for Ramsey County Dispatch.

Thank you for helping to make our community a safer place.

So Ramsey County is now trying to get average people to be Big Brother in their place. Beyond the obvious surveillance state implications here there is another problem with this system. Ramsey County is essentially relying on amateurs to be a front-line security force. Bruce Schneier did a nice write up explaining why relying on amateurs for front-line security will only nab you amateur results. In other words all the money spent on this setup will be meaningless because the police will most likely receive more false positives than useful reports of crime.

With that said there is one useful feature on this site, the crime reports. They post up reports on crimes that have occurred in Ramsey County and do a glorious job of justifying why you should get a carry permit and have a firearm on you as often as possible.

Making Something Scary

I’m still doing this from my phone so you’re not getting my usually long posts. But a post over on Bruce Schneier’s blog about “cyber warfare” had a rather interesting line in it:

Googling those names and terms — as well as “cyber Pearl Harbor,” “cyber Katrina,” and even “cyber Armageddon” — gives some idea how pervasive these memes are. Prefix “cyber” to something scary, and you end up with something really scary.

It’s true. For instance here is a list of good cyber threat terms that should be showing up anytime soon:

  • cyber Alamo
  • cyber World War II
  • cyber ragnarok
  • cyber apocalypse
  • cyber zompocalypse
  • cyber Vietnam policing action
  • cyber end of the world

Yeah we can play the same game as the hype-mongers as well. Maybe the NSA should give me a job.

All Things Being Equal

They’re not. Here’s an interesting headline item from the BBC, tell me if you can spot the inconsistency:

Bags are to be put over scores of surveillance cameras in parts of Birmingham with large Muslim populations, after local objections.

So Britain has decide that Muslims now are a higher class of citizen so they get special privileges? Don’t get me wrong here I’m glad they’re covering up the cameras I just believe they need to cover up the cameras everywhere. But here’s my favorite line from the article:

Councillor Salma Yaqoob said people had lost faith in the authorities.

Welcome to the party. Cookies and juice are over on the table in the corner.

A Testament to Human Ingenuity

We’ve all seen advertisements for The Club, a metal rod that attaches to the steering wheel of a car to prevent theft. Unfortunately it doesn’t actually work, and makes the care easier to steel. Bruce Schneier’s blog once again brings the fact security snake oil just doesn’t work. See the club is easy to remove and works as a tool to assist in the actual theft:

At some point, the Club was mentioned. The professional thieves laughed and exchanged knowing glances. What we knew was that the Club is a hardened steel device that attaches to the steering wheel and the brake pedal to prevent steering and/or braking. What we found out was that a pro thief would carry a short piece of a hacksaw blade to cut through the plastic steering wheel in a couple seconds. They were then able to release The Club and use it to apply a huge amount of torque to the steering wheel and break the lock on the steering column (which most cars were already equipped with). The pro thieves actually sought out cars with The Club on them because they didn’t want to carry a long pry bar that was too hard to conceal.

Yup the one thing about people, we’re an ingenuous bunch. Since we’re talking security against car theft I’ll explain what I do. I have insurance against theft, if my car is stolen and can’t be recovered my insurance company pays me money. It works pretty well as I really have no sentimental attachment to my vehicle.

Just Kidding

Let’s say you want to setup an emergency preparedness drill for a hospital. As part of the planning committee do you:

A – Create a list of potential emergency situations and hold a training day for hospital staff on how to prepare for such situations?

B – High an outside group to prepare a detailed report on mechanisms the hospital can implement to best survive likely emergency situations?

C – Hire an armed man to run into the emergency room one random day to terrorize the staff by aiming a firearm at them?

If you answered C you may be the exact type of person St. Rose Dominican Hospitals-Siena Campus hospital is looking for. Via Bruce Schneier’s blog we learned this was what the above mentioned hospital decided to do for terrorism preparedness:

How’s this for an ill-conceived emergency preparedness drill? An off-duty cop pretending to be a terrorist stormed into a hospital intensive care unit brandishing a handgun, which he pointed at nurses while herding them down a corridor and into a room.

I can’t imagine how this could possible go wrong.

But in Monday’s incident, which occurred in a unit that houses the hospital’s sickest patients, nurses, patients and their families did not know it was a drill, said Renee Ruiz, organizer of the California Nurses Association, which represents staff at the hospital.

So nobody present knew this was a drill. Although it was reported by the Las Vegas Sun the incident took place in Nevada where people are allowed to carry a firearm through licensing. Imagine if one of those doctors or a patient had been carrying a firearm and decided to shoot the person he or she believed was a terrorist (I’d say a man running into a hospital brandishing a firearm at people would be good grounds for a self-defense case).

These kinds of acts have consequences. The hospital which designed and enacted the drill should have thought this through a little more thoroughly. Likewise the off-duty officer they hired should be brought this potential problem to their attention. There are simply layers of stupidity here that can’t be overlooked.